well, maybe i can make one exception: when driving and faced with a dead-end corner and a one-way street. one way.
otherwise? not so much.
the headline read, “florida isn’t the only state pushing legislation that could be harmful to LGBTQ students.” there’s also idaho, georgia, iowa, tennessee and oklahoma. not to forget texas and whatever other states have jumped on the bigotwagon since this headline. what?! apparently, these are states in which leadership has decided there’s just one way. and it’s theirs.
as the proud mother of a gay man, i have to wholeheartedly disagree with these folks. any idea of “normal” that they have conjured up is a warped righteous positioning of power and control, some sort of strange arc into absolutism. it does make one wonder about the possibility of people who need to compensate for something in their own lives. it is astonishingly arrogant, haughtily heartless, cruelly uncaring, blindingly bigoted, disgustingly discriminatory, and sickeningly small-minded in the most prejudiced of ways.
i’m guessing, then, that these same huffy lawmakin’ folks are sittin’ around makin’ it their business to raise questions about people, ponder others’ sexuality or gender, disparage people who identify differently than they do. they are wringing their hands and plotting how to silence them, to marginalize them. because their one-way is the only way and lives that may be richly influential, steeped in open-mindedness and the embrace and love of all humankind should be silenced and marginalized.
“now i can be really vicious,” the loving and enthused words of the [impeached] president of the united states at a rally saturday evening.
“vicious” is not a word you would associate with the behavior of the leader of the free world. “vicious” is not a word used by empathetic, compassionate, caring presidents about how they plan to treat their populace. “vicious” is not a word used in fair, properly and factually prepared, carefully articulated, mature campaigns. “vicious” is not an adjective used by politicians who are trying to unite, to heal, to raise awareness of inequalities, to thoughtfully bring health back to a nation, suffering from layers of dis-ease.
no. let’s face it: “vicious” is not even a descriptor used about dogs you want to be around.
and yet, there are people screaming for more at these rallies. there are people screaming on facebook, on twitter, on message boards, on signs, from stages and pulpits and country club dining rooms and the house-of-white. “vicious.”
where do we go from here? this president has given gross permission for people to be as base as possible, as vulgar as possible, as nasty as possible, as deceitful as possible, as mercilessly unremorseful as possible. he has conquered the heightened epitome of divisiveness, the “no” in no-moral-compass and has created seemingly insurmountable animosity in a country now brewing unrest between its citizens, its families, its friends, its colleagues, its communities, its states, its every-category.
“american decline” was graffitied across the bottom of a freight train. we sat and watched the cars go by, the xb in park just in front of the tracks. it was a long train, car after car, coal hopper after coal hopper, tank car after tank car, stunning graffiti on pretty much each one. it went by too fast to grab a phone to take a picture, but there it was – american decline – spray-painted across the bottom of the car. we read it aloud and then sat quietly.
what is there to say?
“at no time before has there been a clearer choice between two parties or two visions, two philosophies, two agendas for the future. there’s never been anything like this,” read this president at his narcissistic-ego-stroking-power-quenching-non-masked-socially-close-up-and-personal-maga-hat-wearing-rabid-fist-pumping-non-fact-checking-fear-mongering-descent-into-delusion-via-hook-line-and-sinker rally, a rally with an appalling lack of regard for the 194,000 people who have died of the pandemic that still rages across this country…the same pandemic he knew about in february and brutally lied to the public about. the same pandemic that has ravaged the lives of over 6.5 million families: their health, their work, their homes, their security, their futures.
there has never been anything like this. how true is that. it’s vicious.
two people in a facebook thread LAUGHED (with the convenient use of laughing emojis) at a post i wrote responding to someone’s perception that there wasn’t a lot of peace and love going on in my town and to a comment about kenosha and what “BLM and rioters have done to beautiful cities” and that “denying that it exists [wouldn’t] make it go away.” i was sincere and fervently hopeful, while recognizing realities:
“here, with a house full of smoke from the fires, within hearing distance of the militia shots in the street. we could hear the blasts of tear gas, the yelling and chanting. we had a visceral front seat. but we also see many, many, many people coming together to try to address a long-standing (forever) problem of this nation. denying systemic racism exists will not make it go away. it is incredibly sad that conversation has to be aggressive and pointed, rather than generative and mindfully intentional. cities can be rebuilt, but lives are lost forever. i don’t want to live in a city that looks beautiful and is ugly underneath.”
and they laughed. LAUGHED. i had to step away to catch my breath before i could respond. what is becoming of human decency these days?
yes. kenosha painted boarded-up windows and painted over graffiti of negative messaging. yes. because, connectivity and love are the beginning. and reminders of those can only help. each positive message – in a city boarded up and burned and looted – reminds us of the most basic of emotions: LOVE. each positive message reminds us – as we walk about in this raw wound – that we are incomplete, we are flawed and we have much work to do. we need listen to each other, without overtalking. we need speak, without animosity. we need respect, without exception. we need conversation. we need connection. each positive message reminds us that hope exists, even in the tiniest brush of paint on wooden board.
this is a time of division, to be sure. day after day i am confronted with this reality and with peoples’ brazen attempts to undermine relationship with rhetoric and falsehoods, misplaced loyalties and inaccurate assumptions, and, worse yet, words of aggressive animosity and actual hatred. i wonder what the fallout will be. will the silken gossamer threads of connection sustain? will empathy fall by the wayside? will love of humanity – in all its shapes and sizes, genders, races, ethnicities, socioeconomic positions, religious affiliations – all its anythings – prevail?
“we live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender.” (john o’donohue) the question is always, every single day, how will we live? how will we spend that time? who will we be?
realizing the vast array of wise words that would also be appropriate alongside photographs we’ve taken in kenosha, i chose to post these words of dr. martin luther king jr., “darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” and i added this in answer to derisive comments about protestors:
“one of the foremost protestors in this land was dr. martin luther king jr. the thousands of people who walked in peaceful protest here, even drove and marched right by our house, were walking in that spirit. there have been rioters and looters in each city of unrest. they are spurred on by the vitriol and angry words of the current president, who seems to revel in discord and chaos. the fact is, the vast majority of people who are protesting in this nation are protesting in peace. just like in kenosha. this nation needs equality – the only way to get there is to listen to those who speak, listen to those who protest. their words count.”
and then, in a fine example of what conversation has defaulted to, i was called a “cupcake”, a “snowflake” and “infantile”. wow. i beg your pardon.
“while some will see the pied piper and his power as the devil, an evil entity that lures innocents away to their death, other interpretations see something entirely different: a christ-like savior.” (aimee h)
and there we have it.
this country has its very own pied piper. and in no way can this be a good thing.
“the term “pied piper”: … someone who, by means of personal charm, entices people to follow him or her, usually to disappointment or misfortune.” (maeve maddox)
without evidence nor using factual information, as is his unfortunate and biased practice, back in the early stages of this pandemic, the president of this country belittled others for wearing masks, and did not publicly himself wear a mask until mid-july, despite his presence in public places amongst citizens of this country deserving of respect and safety. his failure to make mask-wearing a national mandate in those earliest days of disease undermined the efforts of pandemic-fighters-treaters-sufferers across the country.
thus set the stage.
he pied-pipered his way all over fox news and media-biased outlets; he tooted his pipe into conspiracy theories, never taking responsibility for the safety of his populace. instead he led millions of people over the cliff and almost 190,000 people into death, simply by denying the very thing that could have minimized loss: a mask.
wearing a simple piece of cloth across your nose and mouth seems a small price to pay for a significant amount of safer passage through this time of pandemic. so it seems ludicrous and disgusting to go to the local grocery store and watch people arrogantly walk about with their masks firmly planted around their chins, just begging for someone to ask them to wear it properly. yes. the declining vigilance of the public.
the pied piper’s acolytes are everywhere and his followers are marching, goose-stepping toward what? the story of the pied piper relates that the followers – in the piper’s return to the village – were children and that those “children died of some natural causes such as disease or starvation and that the piper was a symbolic figure of death.” in easy metaphor, our very own piper, without evidence, has distilled the importance of masks to the point of dangerous disregard, pitting side against side, blather against facts, non-actions against actions, subjugating the very economy to disaster, costing jobs, homes, safety, the feeding of families, and has led this country to the brink of death.
is it his personal charm? i think not. the anger he has unleashed, the lack of moral compass, the lies, the rhetoric, the violence…his pipe-tooting seems limitless. instead of unity he chooses division. instead of health he chooses disease. instead of love he chooses hatred.
the pied piper, a self-described rat-catcher, piped to eradicate a poor town from an infestation of rats. ahhh. the metaphor continues. for, tucked into his own house-of-white, while tooting the ever-increasingly-ironic “draining of the swamp,” he and his minions have the best of the best pandemic tools and aids at their bidding. the 2000 people at the lawn rally bestowing accolades upon his every word and gesture have, likely, slightly fewer tools and aids. the millions of those watching fox news, tucked into living rooms across this country, have, likely, far fewer opportunities and far less resources to avoid or combat this coronavirus, this disease, this death.
but the one thing they could have? the one thing that is accessible to most anyone? the one thing that thousands of people sat in front of sewing machines making in the early part of this year, that are available most anywhere, from organizations or religious institutions or individual donors? the one thing that could have saved thousands of lives to date? the one thing that purportedly could still potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives?
please – vigilantly – wear a mask.
because the pied piper truly does not care if you live or die.
pied piper (noun): the hero of a german folk legend, popularized in the pied piper of hamelin (1842) by robert browning. a person who induces others to follow or imitate him or her, especially by means of false or extravagant promises.
my sweet momma would say, “teasing is a form of affection.”
in fourth grade it was a thing for boys to run after the girls on the playground, catch their arm and hold it with one hand while twisting their wrists in a move that had a terrible politically incorrect name. it was painful and undeniably punishable. no matter the circumstance, it was not defensible. tommy a. always chose me and i would go back into the classroom after recess with a reddened wrist, tears in my eyes and an infuriated heart. my teacher would tell me that tommy really likes me; my classmates would sing the “kerri and tommy sitting in the tree….first comes love…..” song. but tommy’s aggression was never a question. no, in this case, teasing was not a form of affection.
the metaphoric wrists of our country’s populace are being twisted day in and day out these days. have you not yet wearied of the rhetoric that, with no effort to quell it, is permeating the soundtrack of our lives? the sad thing is the gross advancement of this kind of muck, excrement of lies, wildly distorted narratives, convoluted lawlessness.
this is not the stuff of a fourth grade boy. indeed, this is the stuff of the president of the united states. the most powerful man in the free world.
weary doesn’t capture it.
how is this behavior acceptable, this distortion of truth, these made-up stories, this bold vitriol of violence, of division, this self-riddled agenda, this absolute hatred of the premise of equality in the entirety of this country based on one-and-all-regardless-of-gender-race-religion-socioeconomic-status?
the wrists are twisting in his party and they are doggedly, obediently following along, quietly rubbing their red wrists, checking their bank accounts and stock market holdings, gripping their offices with nary a glance to the physical, emotional, financial well-being and safety of their constituents. is this the reason to defend the indefensible?
tommy a. would invariably get in trouble. even in fourth grade, he was held accountable for his misdeeds. he was directed to apologize to me and to any other girl (or boy) who he had hurt out on the playground or the asphalt. his repeat offense yielded further punishment until he no longer equated his aggression with a “form of affection”.
when is it that these repeated offenses by the president of the united states and his pandering minions will yield punishment? when is it that this aggression will cease?
our country sits in the middle of a global pandemic that has killed over 185,000 americans. are you ready to die for the furthering of this president’s agenda? defend the indefensible.
our country sits in the middle of social, racial, gender injustice, a system broken and drowning in evil inequality, furthering the chasm between peoples of this nation. are you ready to be divided from family, from friends, from people you love, from neighbors for the furthering of this president’s agenda? defend the indefensible.
our country sits in the middle of the playground, its shores are disappearing, its forests are burning, its air is unclean, its water is toxic. are you ready to sit back in a lawn chair and watch as the world self-destructs for the furthering of this president’s agenda? defend the indefensible.
is this his form of affection? is this the way he shows love for this country?
do not come. president of this aching, grieving, diseased, severed, chaotic country, do not come to kenosha. for you have missed the glimmer of hope on our horizon. you have ignored the pain of a family wracked with the police shooting of their son. you have minimized the impassioned pleas to live in a world where black lives matter. you have distorted the value of lives lost on the very streets of kenosha, lives taken by a little boy with a big gun. you have stoked the flames of violence and are inciting division in all the ways your cold soul knows how.
do not come. we do not need a rally for your ego. we do not need your smug law and order wagon to come through. we definitely do not need you to instill further tension and fear in the residents of this small city by touting approval of civilian militia groups or extremist patriots. do not start fires so that you can take credit for putting them out. we do not need your arson.
do not come. we have been through enough this past week. we are trying to pick up the pieces from violence and injustice and unrest so that we might move into the winds of change, so that we might listen and, with all good intention, step forward into a place of unity, of healing.
do not come. politicizing death and destruction and vengeance and ratcheted ferocity have no place on the streets of a community that wants more than that. we the people desire a more perfect union and domestic tranquility and it is becoming clear that unity is not your ultimate goal and that domestic turbulence and divisiveness are your weapons of choice.
do not come. for our city needs level wisdom, calm compassion, fair and candid conversation, truth, not your screaming vitriol, your punting self-agenda, your endorsement of hatred, your lies.
do not come. for your intentions are not with hope in your heart.
and without you, in the heart of kenosha, there is the glimmer of hope.
our go-bags are packed. the dog crate is in the car and the cat crate is in the sitting room, ready. important papers are in a tote bag and the backpack awaits our laptops and all the related power cords. one more bag sits open for a few clothes and toiletries.
i feel unhinged.
i wrote to my children that it is unbelievable and real at the same time. this is true. we have no idea what dusk will bring, what the dark hours of the night will be like in our downtown, in our neighborhood, a city wracked in pain and fraught with the tension of social injustice gone exponential.
we sit. holding our heads.
we drove through downtown today for the first time. it was the first time since sunday that we had even been out, beyond taking a short walk in the neighborhood. we went to the grocery store where they had humongous stacks of water bottles near the door, ready for protesters, first responders, law enforcement, anyone thirsty in near 100 degree feels-like temperatures. we picked up a few things and headed home, taking a slight sidetrip through our very-nearby downtown.
it was stunning. heartbreaking. it made me cry.
we had seen pictures of the downtown all boarded up, but we had not been there yet. we did not ambulance chase nor were we there to help board up or bring food or water in the last few days. we, paralyzed and from our home, wrote about this experience, wrote about the surreal feelings we had listening to the sounds of inequality, the smoky smells of injustice, the taste of fearful adrenaline all must feel in the situations that have brought us here.
and so we hold our heads in our hands. we weep for the families of every person victimized by violence. we stand in the muck of a society that has perpetuated this unfair treatment, that has made excuses for it, that has steeped itself in hatred and bigotry.
tenuous. we are all walking on the thinnest of threads. the thinnest threads of life, health, relationship, value.
i don’t know what it would take to graffiti an outdoor stairwell with the stenciled words “you hate me”. it stopped me as we took a friday night walk – miles around our downtown, across the bridge, through simmons island beach, along the lakefront. we started down the stairwell to the channel and there it was.
“you hate me”
anonymous. you hate me. who’s the you? who’s the me? the anonymity factor adds concern for me. someone, on that thinnest thread, felt tenuousness enough that they stenciled it on the concrete wall.
that it wasn’t “i hate you” and that it was “you hate me” makes it even more distressing. it makes you wonder which sad and lonely face you passed might have been that of the stenciler. it thrusts questions about your local community on your heart. it is a gut punch that foists pondering upon you. it forces you to search inside, to see if you are emanating that to others.
there are so many reasons right now to disagree with another, so many reasons for anger. conflicting opinions distort the absolute importance of connectivity, of community, of the healing of love. people with differing thoughts opine as experts in fields in which they have no actual experience; people proselytize and preach and persuade. the bandwagons of what-seems-like-the-cool-gangs line up, circling, handing out candy to those who would like to be in the club, aiding them up onto the wagon and then looking away from their individual needs, only paying attention to replenish the candy and keep the furor going.
and so people feel hated. enough to write it on a wall.
“to reconcile our seeming opposites, to see them as both, not one or the other, is our constant challenge.” (sue bender, plain and simple journal)
i wonder what i would have felt if upon the concrete wall the words “you love me” had been stenciled.
recently i heard someone say that she was glad her parents weren’t here to see what is happening. i would have to agree. my sweet momma and my poppo would be appalled by today’s incessant and prevailing lack of decency. it’s embarrassing and mind-numbing to witness. this is not just a simple lack of kindness for others; these are displays of a complete lack of regard for the sanctity of human life, the privilege of living together on this good earth.
i am relieved that my children are grown so that i don’t have to explain to them the ugliness that is pervasive, accepted, even overtly encouraged. name-calling, lying, undermining, blatant cruelness aimed at others; egregious acts aimed at those less fortunate, elitist prejudices and judgements loaded into automatic weapons spewing vitriol at others, vindictiveness toward people who have a different opinion, who stand up for something different, who live different lives, who are courageous and whose bravery shows up in truth-telling.
we find that this is not just poisoning the outer limits – the circles we don’t belong to, the social or financial ladder-rung we have not reached, the country we belong to but the government by which we are not employed.
no. this sinister lack of decency has reached its slimy tentacles into our communities, our work, our friends, our families, our homes. people, who we would not expect, displaying reactionary anger – jousting their epee of mean-spirited words at the unsuspecting, stepping over the boundaries of democratic principles, over the clearly-now-elusive stopgaps of doing-what’s-right, over the limit of how-i-would-want-you-to-talk-to-me-is-how-i-will-talk-to-you or how-i-would-want-you-to-treat-me-is-how-i-will-treat-you. there is no conversation. there is righteous indignation, cavalier disrespect, face-down-i’m-not-listening-to-you body language. there is anger. there is hate.
and, instead of being struck down by an army of goodness, a wealth of kindness, even a modicum of fairness, this indecency has become normalized and it seems rewarded. whether outwardly applauding or quietly complicit, the indecency is forwarded on. and the tentacles of this corrosive nastiness, unchecked, reach both inward and outward into the concentric circles surrounding each of us; the incivility is a contagion and it wins.
ahhh. early morning. it is sunday and we are writing a couple days ahead for a busy week.
as i sit here, in this beautiful “idyllic” place, i hear the rapid fire of gunshots. i google, looking for a shooting range i have heard about, but to no avail. sunday morning. a time of reflection and peace. and, apparently, gunfire. i don’t understand.
a couple nights ago i woke up and could hear the sound of two men talking. we rarely hear people talking here, at any time of day or night. i didn’t know where they were, and i couldn’t understand what they were saying, but the last thing i heard was a gunshot. nothing else. why, on earth, would someone be shooting anything in the middle of the night? i’ve been told that there is poaching and shining and that hunting is a big part of this place. hunting what? what season is this? are people’s kitchen tables truly dependent on this? there’s a grocery store. i don’t understand.
this week, just one week, as you know, our country suffered four times at the hands of someone who chose to brutally end the lives of others. intentionally. with assault weapons. my heart breaks. again. and i don’t understand.
it appears that we are on a path of self-destruction. a garlic festival, shopping at walmart, enjoying a saturday evening downtown in a small city…these are normal activities. these are opportunities for human beings – like you and me – to do the stuff of life or to gather together. partners, families, children, friends. people we know, people we do not know, all breathing in and breathing out just like we do. life-doing and gathering together should not include terror. it shouldn’t even include fear. i don’t understand.
where are we headed? will we continue to perpetuate hatred? will we continue to feed division? will we continue to kowtow to big money, to the needs of a few instead of the needs of many? will we care? will we continue to taunt and bully and fight? will we continue to kill each other? i don’t understand.
as i sit on the dock of the bay, looking at the horizon blending with the sky, one little tiny being in a vast universe, i just don’t understand.